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September 14, 2023

AHA Students Gain Insight & Inspiration at HOBY Leadership Seminar

This year’s Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Seminar provided selected New Jersey teens with new insights into what it means to be a leader. Those who attended the 2023 conference at Drew University included Academy of the Holy Angels delegates Cara Boyce of Old Tappan; Margaret “Molly” Doherty of New City, New York; Isabella Kim of Cresskill; and Xenaya Medina of Clifton.


“Spending those three days at Drew (June 16-18) was a unique experience in itself,” Isabella Kim said, adding that she drew inspiration from the guest speakers and her peers. “The friendships I took away from this experience were special, and just as important as the lessons I’ve learned from activities throughout the day.


“(The speakers’) insights into leadership and personal growth weren’t just theoretical; they felt real and applicable, even for people my age…One piece of advice that resonated deeply with me is that true leadership is not about being in charge, but empowering those around you. During the seminar, interacting with a diverse group of students and listening to the speakers helped me realize that the most impactful leaders aren’t those who merely hold positions of power. Instead, they uplift others, foster a sense of community, and create an environment where everyone feels valued and heard…I left HOBY with a clearer picture of not only what I want to achieve but also what type of leader I aspire to be.”


Molly Doherty enjoyed meeting intelligent, fun, like-minded people at HOBY.


“Young people actually do have the drive and resources to make a difference in their community, and it was very inspiring to hear different people’s stories and to start thinking about what I could do to make an impact on my community,” Molly said. “I recommend this conference to anyone who is interested because it was just a really fun and eye-opening experience.”


Cara Boyce said HOBY offers a well-organized balance between fun and learning.


“At HOBY, I worked on improving my confidence, public speaking, organizational skills, and specific leadership style. The difference in my confidence was life-changing, and I know I am capable of whatever I set my mind to do,” Boyce shared.

A highlight for this Angel was working with her group to create Clear Tides, a non-profit volunteer organization that works to stop water pollution by finding and promoting healthy, safe alternatives to everyday pollutants such as fertilizers and sunscreens.


“Although this organization is in the beginning stages, the purpose of the project was to practice our leadership skills in a group setting and think creatively about what root issues in society need to change,” Boyce noted. “For the future, I know that, despite my age or any other limitations, I am capable of whatever I set my mind to and the biggest step is just to get started.”


HOBY inspired Boyce to make progress on her Girl Scout Gold Award Project. She hosted American Sign Language classes at the Old Tappan Public Library, and launched a YouTube Channel, Signing with Cara (, where she shares information about ASL and deaf culture.


“HOBY helped me pursue my Gold Award by telling countless stories of students having ambitious goals, yet achieving them anyway,” Boyce noted. She added that she achieved her goal by breaking her project into manageable steps.

Xenaya Medina was inspired by HOBY speaker/Vydia Co-president Jenna Gaudio, who left a “safe” job to start her own company.


“The story of Jenna Gaudio’s persistence and relentless pursuit of not settling for the status quo was my absolute favorite from the seminar, and one that I will always recall for inspiration,” Medina shared.


HOBY encouraged Medina to use her interest in neuroscience to work with children with intellectual disabilities. Over the summer, she worked with Special Olympics and Pathways for Exceptional Children to teach children to play soccer and tennis, build and code robots, and speak in front of an audience.


“It has been a rewarding experience learning more about their neurological conditions and adapting to the different ways they learn, and even more rewarding when they feel the success at what we are working on and their confidence grows,” Medina said. “It’s not that they can’t; instead, it’s find another way.”


Founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1879, the Academy of the Holy Angels is the oldest private girls’ school in Bergen County. While AHA is steeped in Catholic tradition, this prestigious school serves young women from many cultural and religious backgrounds. The Academy’s current leaders continue to further the SSND mission to provide each student with the tools she needs to reach the fullness of her potential—spiritually, intellectually, socially, and physically, by offering a first-rate education in a nurturing environment where equal importance is placed on academic excellence, character development, moral integrity, and service to others.